December 2, 2009

From the Front: 12/02/2009

News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front. (New complete posts come in below)

Badger 6: "The poets down here don't write nothing at all" - This blog has been harder to do than I thought it would be. Sorry about that. On the bright side though I have finally started on a book about Iraq. (MORE)

Jim Snyder: Fool's Errand?!?!? - Democratic war tax proponent Obey calls expected troop surge a 'fool's errand' - The chief architect of a bill to increase taxes to pay for the Afghanistan war said he didn't believe adding troops would yield much benefit. "The problem is you can have the best policy in the world but if you don't have the tools to implement it it isn't worth a bean bag,"Rep. David Obey (D-Wisc.), the House Appropriations Committee chairman, told CNN on Sunday. Well, he probably does believe that, because he has failed to correctly address the mission parameters. Adding more troops will increase the probability of more dead tangos, always a good thing. We shouldn't worry about the internal workings of the Afghan government. We're there to kill islamist extremists. If that is not what you want as an outcome, then yes, he's right, in his own twisted little mind. (READ MORE)

Steve Schippert: Counterinsurgency incoherence - In war, and particularly in an Afghanistan counterinsurgency effort, there are always three sides to the coin: the good, the bad and the ugly. This is especially true in President Obama's new Afghanistan strategy, finally announced to the American public Tuesday from a West Point backdrop. The prescribed influx of much-needed American warriors onto the battlefield is clearly and rightly the good. And the good can withstand the bad, a Taliban enemy in the absence of reliable partners in the Afghan and Pakistani governments. But the glimmering light of the good will surely be eclipsed by the ugly, an incoherence of strategy beneath the surface sheen of a surge. The devil is always in the details. Sending additional troops, whether decided upon from intellectual deliberation or from political calculation, is the right call. The details of their usage, the never-ending questions of "exit strategy" and the general unwillingness to commit to victory is wholly unacceptable. (READ MORE)

3rd Time, New Country: Rookie Move - I have two quick updates for the blog. The first happened on Monday on our trip to NDS. As usual, I was driving the lead HMMV with Dennis as the right seat. We left early morning and arrived to NDS without incident. We didn't do much mentoring as it was the first workday after Eid. Most of the Afghans greeted each other, had hugs and handshakes, then spent the rest of the time drinking chai and discussing Eid. My rookie mistake happened when we got ready to leave. I started the HMMV and let it warm up while I was putting on my gear. I climbed in the seat, then saw what I thought was white smoke coming up between my legs. Needless to say, I didn't spend alot of time looking at the color or trying to figure out what it was. I thought "FIRE" so I immediately shut off the truck and bailed out the door. I hadn't closed the door yet. I turned around and looked back into the truck and didn't see anymore smoke. What it really was, was my rookie move. (READ MORE)

P.J. Tobia: Obama Rearranges Deck Chairs On The Titanic - As everybody in the world who owns a TV set knows, President Obama went public with his strategy for Afghanistan last night. For Afghanistan watchers (and the readers of this blog) there were very few surprises in that speech. We’ve known for at least a week that there would be a significant up-tick in coalition forces here, but really, this plan has probably been in the works for over a year. Last summer, I wrote this essay, outlining how the US would eventually make it’s way out of Afghanistan. In it, I said that there would be a surge in the short-term, with a heavy emphasis on training Afghan security forces, followed by a withdrawal before the next US presidential election. I’d like to thank the President for vindicating my line of thinking. But after listening to the President’s speech, I’m still not sure what he thinks Afghanistan will look like by the time US forces withdraw in 2011. (READ MORE)

Bouhammer: This Afghanistan timetable is CRAZY!! - There is no way, NO WAY this is going to happen. In about 5 minutes I will be on a Blogger’s Roundtable talking with Mr. David S. Sedney, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asia, and Brig. Gen. John W. Nicholson, Jr. Director, Pakistan-Afghanistan Coordination Cell, Joint Staff. I am going to ask some hard questions about the timeline that the President just outlined. Why does he think that a mere 1 year after he surges in 30,000 additional forces, that he can start withdrawing forces. How is that much progress going to happen in 12 months. In Jan, 2007 MG Durbin stated that he wanted Task Force Phoenix to start mentoring and training the Afghan Police and wanted them up to the level of the Afghan Army (which we had been embedded with for the last 5 years). We said then that MG Durbin was on crack to think we could turn around the ANP that fast. Well I am starting to think that again now of the President. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan My Last Tour: Frustrating FOO - Perhaps last night’s downpour of rain or the continual drizzle this morning should have been an indicator for today’s mission. But a little bit of rain wasn’t going to deter us from fulfilling our mission. Our plan today was to turn in a HMMVW, get an M-240 machine gun inspected, and clear the FOO account. My focus was on clearing the FOO (Field Ordering Official) or special project funds so I can go on leave and meet up with my wife in Germany. Every month I have to account for $15,000 worth of expenditures. If I don’t spend all the money, it takes even longer to clear the account and return the money. Most of my ETT teammates and I wore our rain gear today. I was really surprised that it rained most of the night and was still sprinkling in the morning. It was going to be a wet day for the gunners in the turrets. The seals in the turret hatches are virtually worthless and the rainwater seeped in and soaked my driver’s seat along with the interior. (READ MORE)

Peter Bergen: How President Obama decided on the Afghanistan strategy - Three senior administration officials outlined on Tuesday some of the concepts and processes that went into President Obama’s new plan for Afghanistan. Between September 13 and November 23 the president chaired 10 meetings of his national security team to deliberate over the new strategy. The president agreed with the ground commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal’s assessment from the summer that the key goal of the strategy was to reverse the momentum of the Taliban in the next 12 months. He selected from the menu of troop deployment options the one that got American boots on the ground in the most rapid manner. There are six objectives those forces will try to accomplish: (READ MORE)

Embedded in Afghanistan…: The White House - Our typical mission was to conduct “Leader’s Engagements” with the populace. Basically, that meant we’d go into the villages and talk to the people, typically the head man. The idea was to get the ANA out there mingling with the populace and basically showing themselves to be present and competent. Gathering information about security developments in the area and what projects the villagers would like to see done was a secondary part of those missions. We may have considered the actual information gathered to have been the most important part of the mission, and not of ancillary importance, if we’d been able to get relevant information about the security (enemy disposition, whereabouts, etc.) more often, or ever for that matter. Given the peoples’ reluctance to tell us anything about the enemy we’d usually just talk about happenings in the area in a general way, unless we had something specific we wanted to talk to them about. (READ MORE)

Sgt Danger: My Thoughts on War - So far, I’ve pretty much avoided writing about anything beyond my personal experiences in Afghanistan. But now, with the President’s upcoming* announcement of a revised strategy for Afghanistan, I feel like I need to share some of my thoughts on the big picture issues. I’ve wrestled through a half dozen rough drafts, writing some 4,000 words. I’ve been all over the place: - the events of a long eight years of fighting in Afghanistan, - NATO’s inability to implement an all out counter-insurgency (COIN) strategy, - the practical implications of deploying thousands of new troops to already crowded bases, - the impact of an Army strained by years of fighting across two theaters, - the powerful forces that profit from either the status quo or an escalation. After all this, I started over to make two simple points. 1. THE COST OF WAR: War is a wicked thing. It is sometimes justified and necessary, it is sometimes petty and fruitless… but it is always terrible. (READ MORE)

In the NARMY now: Updates! - Once again I find myself apologizing for the sporadic posts. It's just that boring out here, that there isn't much to report. I will take this opportunity to update some of my previous posts. More or less answer the questions my Mom asks when I call home. Dave and Brian - Brian's funeral was last Saturday. There was quite a bit of local news coverage in the Scranton area. Using google you can find articles and newscasts if you wish to read more. He was buried next to his Mother who coincidentally died in auto accident at the same age as Brian, 37. Dave has been in Bethesda since the Sunday after the accident. His parents have been there since then as well. A few days ago he was finally taken off life support and is now breathing on his own. Family reports he has attempted to squeeze their hands. While these are good signs, he is still unconscious and the neurologist cautions not to get too excited as full recovery from his type of brain injury will take a miracle. (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: Obama on Iraq and Afghanistan - I can't help but wonder what President Obama is thinking today. He's about to announce a surge for Afghanistan. This is the same man who predicted incorrectly that the surge would not succeed in Iraq. Could he be thinking of what he said about Iraq? Maybe he hopes his audience doesn't remember what he said when he was running for president. You know, that Iraqis are to be abandoned even in case of genocide. Now he can acknowledge that there are good things going on here. Violence is down, people are going about their everyday lives in an energetic Baghdad. And oil analysts say Iraq is on its way to joining the world's major oil producers. Of course I don't know Afghanistan, but Obama can tell his audience with confidence the surge will work because it worked in Iraq. Sure people might criticize Obama for the decision to speed up sending more troops to Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

Kudzu: Does the Left Feel this Way? - “Enemy camp?” What does bringing up Paul Wolfowitz have to do with this? The United States Military Academy is the one of the nation’s best colleges and regularly sends future officers of the United States Army on Rhodes Scholarships. Its a premier security and international relations think tank that offers opinions of all kinds. Its not an Obama 2008 campaign rally or an ACORN members meeting, there was never going to be a warm reception. The students at West Point have a long 4 years in their chosen college while Obama’s wild and crazy Ivy League was only challenging in the paper cut realm. The men and women at West Point wrote that blank check to Uncle Sam between four to one year ago and did it regardless of who the Commander in Chief was. Enemy camp? If the left likes to think Rush Limbaugh speaks for “the right”, then Chris Matthews and the regime at MSNBC speaks for the left… do this include the Obama administration? (READ MORE)

Jamie McIntyre: The Speech - President Barack Obama’s address outlining his strategy for success in Afghanistan had all the flavor of a halftime speech in which the coach exhorts his team to do just enough to win, but no more. “I refuse to set goals that go beyond our responsibility, our means, or our interests,” intoned the President last night. Those are not words that inspire. The president conveyed his ambivalence about the mission and the prospects for success, especially when he declared his intent to begin pulling U.S. troops out in July 2011, regardless of where things stand. “It must be clear that Afghans will have to take responsibility for their security and that America has no interest in fighting an endless war in Afghanistan.” Again the message that come through is that America is leaving in 18 months. That may be a realistic goal. But telegraphing it so clearly sends the wrong message… to our troops, our partners, and our enemies. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Suicide bomber kills Pakistani politician - The Taliban ended its lull in attacks in Pakistan with a suicide attack against a member of the provincial assembly in the Northwest Frontier Province. A Taliban suicide bomber, said to be in his early 20s, killed Dr. Shamsher Ali Khan, a member of the provincial assembly, as he was greeting friends and constituents outside his home in Swat. Khan's brother was also killed in the attack. The attack took place less than a mile from Imam Dehri, the home of Swat Taliban leader Mullah Fazlullah, who ran a mosque and an illegal FM radio station there before the Pakistani military operation was launched in the spring. The military claimed that more than 2,000 Taliban fighters were killed and 8,000 more were captured during the Swat operation. Khan was a member of the Awami National Party, the ruling, secular Pashtun party in the Northwest Frontier Province which supports dialogue to resolve the Taliban problem. (READ MORE)

Richard Lowry: Recording History - a Belated Update - I thought you all might enjoy a short unedited excerpt for the fifth anniversary. On December 5, 2004, Dan Wittnam’s Small Craft Company went out again on a sweep along the Euphrates River, east of Ramadi with engineers from Colonel Patton’s 44th Engineer Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division. After a productive day of clearing caches, the boats turned west to return to Camp Blue Diamond. And again, the enemy had set up a large ambush to attack the Marines as they returned to their base. They were only seven or eight kilometers from Blue Diamond when the insurgents attacked with RPGs and heavy machine guns. An RPG whizzed across the water and hit the side of Staff Sergeant Iversen’s boat. It pierced the hull and severed the port fuel line, killing his port engine. The starboard engine took a round in its block. The engine sputtered and coughed and Iversen’s boat slowed to a crawl. Now, they were sitting ducks in the hot zone. (READ MORE)

Sgt Blogger: "Shadow of the Sword" - This is a true account of Marine Sergeant Jeremiah Workman and his amazing heroism which awarded him the coveted Navy Cross along with a lifetime of guilt for the ones he could not save. In this chilling account of a real American Hero; Sgt. Workman illustrates all of the exhausting and relentless elements of combat in Iraq. Through the hail of gunfire of the Mujahideen, he describes his relentless effort to save the lives of his fellow Marines at the bloody battle of Fallujah. In his compelling story, Workman vividly paints the images of overwhelming odds and the strain of inexorable combat. But there is the one battle that he carries with him, deep in the shadows of his mind. For the war does not stay in Iraq, it is with him back at home, he relives every chilling detail over and over again asking the question… “Why did I not Die?” (READ MORE)

USA and USMC Counterinsurgency Center Blog: COIN THE SURGE AND THE MONOPOLY OF VIOLENCE IN AFGHANISTAN - Most likely by the time you read this blog, President Obama will have announced that he is sending another 30,000 plus soldiers to the fight in Afghanistan. He has taken a long time to deliberate on this, but this soldier thinks he has taken the correct approach (we’ll see if the decision is right in time…). He had a lot of contradictory advice on the way, but one bit of advice that I thought bared some examination was that of Ambassador Eikenberry in Kabul. Ambassador Eikenberry is quoted as saying that “additional troops would be unwise because of the corruption and ineffectiveness of the Afghan government.” Ambassador Eikenberry, who was the US commander in Afghanistan from 2005 – 2007 has never shrunk from criticizing the Afghan Government and rightly so. But, is the ineffectiveness of the Afghan Government reason enough to prevent additional troops from being sent to Afghanistan? (READ MORE)

David Hambling: UK Launches Its Own Shaky ‘Surge’ Into Afghanistan - The British surge into Afghanistan may not be as large as the American one — 500 British forces, compared to 30,000 U.S. troops. But the political opposition to the war in the UK is even more formidable than in America, and even this modest increase could only be achieved after several conditions were met. In particular, British troops have to be better equipped and better supported than they have been for the past several years. In Afghanistan, there have been many warnings that the lack of sufficient helicopters means that troops have to travel by road. This makes them vulnerable to roadside bombs and other hazards. A new force of RAF Merlin helicopters was deployed to Afghanistan earlier this month after a £42m ($70m) upgrade program. The number of armored vehicles has also been ramped up significantly. Air Chief Marshal Jock Stirrup, cheap of defense staff stated that the number of Mastiff vehicles had doubled since August: (READ MORE)

Noah Shachtman: Pentagon Hopes 30,000-Troop ‘Counterpunch’ Can Buy Time for Afghanistan’s Homegrown Forces - President Obama doesn’t want to do long-term nation-building in Afghanistan. He said so in his speech tonight, announcing 30,000 new U.S. troops for the warzone there. A full-tilt counterinsurgency doesn’t appear to be his goal; Obama never mentioned the word or alluded to the approach in his talk at West Point. Al Qaeda’s leadership remains largely bottled up in Pakistan. So what are all those fresh troops going to do in Afghanistan? And how much can they really expect to accomplish in 18 months, when Obama expects those forces to begin to come home? Top Defense Department officials say the new troops are meant to throw the Taliban off-balance for a year and a half, while the local army and police get their acts together. “Buy space and time for the growth of the Afghan forces,” Brig. Gen. John “Mick” Nicholson, director of the Pentagon’s Afghan/Pakistan Coordination, tells a conference call with bloggers and reporters. (READ MORE)

Nathan Hodge: How to Get Troops to Afghanistan in a Hurry - President Barack Obama is set to announce a troop surge to Afghanistan tonight — and if the latest reports are correct, the president’s plan will call for a rapid, six-month buildup. And that asks the question: How does the U.S. military expect to get an additional 34,000 or so additional troops to Afghanistan in such short order? This is not Iraq, where the United States had the benefit of a massive staging area just over the border in Kuwait. As Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. general in the region recently put it, the lack of infrastructure in Afghanistan presents “major challenges.” Some of the groundwork for additional forces, however, has already been laid. Late this summer, I reported from Bagram Airfield, the main logistics hub for northern and eastern Afghanistan. A tremendous construction boom was already underway: The U.S. military has poured around $220 million into upgrading the place, building new dormitories, supply points and roads. (READ MORE)

Dena Yllescas: It's been a year - A year has passed. Yet it seems like yesterday that my world came crashing down and I had to make the hardest decision of my life. It’s still so hard to believe he is gone. It’s been a year and yet still so surreal. So much has happened in a year. A year ago, I never would have pictured my life where it is today. With the help of my wonderful family and friends, and the hugs and kisses from my beautiful girls, I have managed to put one foot in front of the other and try to make the best out of a horrible situation. Over the past year, there were days that I wanted to lay in bed, put the covers over my head, and never wake up. But how would that help the situation any? How would that make me a better mom? And Rob would NOT want that. This is my reality. This is my life now. Nothing I do will change that. So, for my sake and the sake of my daughters, I need to make life as normal and happy as possible for us. Our life will never be the “old normal” so we’re making a “new normal”. (READ MORE)

Manatee's Military Moms: Families will remain steadfast in support of their loved ones - What does it mean? The troop surge? For folks with a loved one serving in the military, it’s just another day at the office. Well, of course there is the broader picture…the world’s reaction…and what does that mean for political relations with Pakistan, Yemen, Britain, the world? Everyone seems to be second-guessing and putting in their two cents and opining their heads off… But we know that every day is fraught with hazards and hardships for our loved ones. They serve in the cold; on rough seas; in the heat. There are too many dangers to list, but we know what they are. For families, they are the crippling thoughts that we push from our heads every day to focus on the most important mission of all: support. We will stand tall. Our troops serve with honor as they have done since the birth of our nation; we will put our heart and soul into supporting them, loving them, and one day, welcoming them home. (READ MORE)

Jules Crittenden: Obama’s War - About that speech, I heard it refered to by one Obama fan as “steadfast.” Once you get past the stealth Bush-bash, the excuse-making, the subtle apologies, and the overall half-heartedness, I guess. There was the steadfast decision to nickel and dime the commander in the field, and the steadfast timetable. I’d hate to be a grunt in some remote outpost, wondering where the other 10,000 guys are when I need them, or a commander in Bagram checking my watch. To paraphrase another go-lite advocate, you don’t go to war with the army you want, you go to war with the army your president and his political advisors send you with. You don’t, contrary to widespread public opinion, get to choose your wars. They choose you. You just get to choose what you’re going to do with them. With this surge, Afghanistan is in disputably Obama’s war now, to win or lose. (READ MORE)

The Armorer: Meanwhile, in Iraq, Mass in the language of Jesus - The press finding Iraq to be boring these days I thought this story would be of interest. It's the kind of story that the MSM would have little interest in trying to find time or space for, especially since there's no blood or policy failures involved - which makes it perfect for this place, where we like to tell the tale not told. Lieutenant Colonel Melanie Meiers was, until her call-up to active duty, my state representative, and a fellow defense contractor working at Fort Leavenworth. She's a Democrat, but as she's a semi-rural Kansas Democrat, that would make her a rabid Republican in someplace like Massachusetts... A brief glimpse into Christianity in Iraq: "Prior to the 2003 start of Operation Iraqi Freedom, an estimated 1.2 million Christians lived in Iraq. For several reasons that number today is thought to be down around 600,000." (READ MORE)

ROFASix: Obama's "Limited" Surge Strategy - Last night, we heard the new strategy for the Afghanistan War from President Obama. Some old soldiers watching, could not figure out whether this “limited surge concept” was bi-polar or schizophrenic. Only after learning that schizophrenia "commonly manifests as auditory hallucinations, paranoid or bizarre delusions, or disorganized speech and thinking with significant social or occupational dysfunction," we figured that was the right term to describe the “limited” surge strategy. OK, so Obama inherited this war. As of last night, that excuse ends. Now, he owns it. Undoubtedly, he finds this war inconvenient. It could derail his quest "remake" America and sucks money from the tax coffers needed to pay for the "new America." That is why we are hearing whispers in the media and Congress about imposing a "war tax." Those in power do not want to endanger their agenda and that sucking sound at the treasury does exactly that. (READ MORE)

Some Soldier's Mom: PTSD: A Different Perspective, Part I - PTSD looks to be the diagnosis of the decade. Seems everyone has it, or wants to claim it. In the 80s the diagnosis was ADHD... In the 90s, was it narcissism? And now, PTSD: apparently you can get it soon after watching a movie, or years after some bad act. It's all the rage in the news, and a convenient excuse for bad behavior. Even if someone has never personally experienced the trauma, it seems like they only have to hear about someone else's trauma, and POOF — they have PTSD! Worse still are those who point to combat stress as proof that service members are the victims of some nefarious plot. If you believe the media and some politicians, every bad act by someone who happens to be a veteran is the result of some neglect or refusal to identify and treat this condition. The unfortunate truth is that there are those who will not seek help and, with rare exception, no one can force them to seek or receive it. (READ MORE)

The Belmont Club: The other aspect of Afghanistan - Aviation author Bill Sweetman describes the first available photographs of a stealth UAV operating out of Afghanistan in his blog in Ares. Sweetman says it may be a high altitude, long endurance UAV. “The jet has long, slender outer wings, spanning as much as 80 feet, mated to a stouter, deeper centerbody with a pointed nose. One important detail: the overwing fairings are not B-2-like inlets, but cover some kind of equipment – satcoms on one side, perhaps, and a sensor on the other.” In an earlier post, Sweetman speculated that the “Beast of Kandahar” may have related to a secret requirement for a platform that would fly at 70-80,000 feet using classified engines produced for a deleted program. But the key problem is what such a vehicle would be doing in Afghanistan. Perhaps the biggest mystery, though, is what the birds were doing in Kandahar. Why use a stealth aircraft against an adversary that doesn’t have radar? (READ MORE)



News from the Front:
Iraq:

All-female Medical Evacuation Crew Makes History - Four soldiers serving here with the New Hampshire National Guard earned a special distinction last week when they became their company’s first all-female medical evacuation crew. In the three days before Thanksgiving, Capt. Trish Barker, Chief Warrant Officer Andrea Galatian, Staff Sgt. Misty Seward and Sgt. Debra Lukan, of the Army’s 3-238th Medevac, C Company, comprised one of the on-alert crews for Task Force Keystone. Officials aren’t sure how rare the all-female medevac crew is, but it is a rarity the company is proud of. (READ MORE)

Building a Foundation Through Partnership - As U.S. forces move closer and closer to an Iraq in which there are no American forces to provide assistance, the importance of the lessons they pass on to their Iraqi partners has never been greater. One such effort, the train-the-trainer program instituted by Border Transition Team Scimitar, has vastly increased the technical and tactical competence of Iraq's 3rd Battalion, 11th Brigade, Department of Border Enforcement officers. (READ MORE)

Micro-grants Boost Purchasing Power for Iraqis - In a small village northwest of Baghdad, the American troops of the 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division conducted a foot patrol focused on finding the owner of a generator. The Soldiers were here to give the man paperwork for a micro-grant that could assist him in the general upkeep of the generator and for purchasing fuel, thus powering the generator and a good portion of the community, said Sgt. Charlie De Nune, of Tacoma, Wash. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Police arrest 11 suspected AQI members in northern Iraq - Iraqi Police arrested 11 suspected members of the al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) terrorist group today during two joint security operations conducted in northern Iraq. Near As Sadiyah, northeast of Baghdad, Iraqi Police and U.S. advisors searched several buildings for an alleged AQI member believed to have ties to senior leadership. (READ MORE)

Civilians wounded by grenade during Eid - Twenty-six people were wounded Monday in a grenade attack on an Eid al Adha celebration in Hawijah. Twenty-two of the wounded were treated in the Hawijah hospital and four evacuated to Kirkuk due to the seriousness of the injuries. Iraqi Army soldiers have two suspects in custody wanted in connection with the attack. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Police nab 15 alleged AQI suspects - Iraqi Police and U.S. advisors apprehended 15 alleged al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) suspects during recent operations, military officials report. IP arrested four suspected AQI cell members yesterday in two joint security operations near Baghdad and Kirkuk, military officials said. (READ MORE)

Airman carries wartime flag family heirloom - Staff Sgt. Heriberto Gonzalez, 332nd Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron, possesses an American flag that was carried by both his father and grandfather during wartime. "Gonzo," as he is referred to by his flight line coworkers, is on his eighth deployment since joining the Air Force. An avionics craftsman by trade, he volunteered to deploy to Iraq to provide security for local and third-country nationals working on this base. (READ MORE)


Afghanistan:
A Disappointing Speech in Support of the Right Policy - President Obama’s speech on Afghanistan was disappointing. Yes, the policy is right: more troops, a counter-insurgency strategy, a stronger alliance with Pakistan. But the personal commitment of the president to pursue the war against the Taliban and al Qaeda until they are defeated was not there. Obama did not take ownership of the war. It’s still the war in Afghanistan, not Obama’s War. (READ MORE)

ISAF Commander's Statement Regarding U.S. President's Announcement - The statement of General Stanley McChrystal, Commander NATO International Security Assistance Force and U.S. Forces Afghanistan regarding the address by The President of the United States: "The Afghanistan-Pakistan review led by the President has provided me with a clear military mission and the resources to accomplish our task. The clarity, commitment and resolve outlined in the President’s address are critical steps toward bringing security to Afghanistan and eliminating terrorist safe havens that threaten regional and global security. (READ MORE)

Will Russia’s Afghan Fate Be America’s? - For anyone with memories of the Soviet army’s withdrawal from Afghanistan in February 1989, there was a special irony in one element of President Obama’s diplomatic efforts ahead of his West Point speech on Tuesday night: His telephone call to the Russian president, Dmitri Medvedev. (READ MORE)

At Army Bases, Warriors Are Ready to Step Up - At military installations that will be supplying the additional troops to go to Afghanistan, there was an air of inevitability on Tuesday about President Obama’s speech tonight. While there was little of the second-guessing that has characterized discussions around the country and in Congress about the buildup of a war that has dragged on for eight years, interviews with soldiers and their families revealed that many were grasping for a clarity of mission and an objective that can be achieved. (READ MORE)

U.S. troops skeptical of Afghan soldiers' abilities - When nearly 60 tribal leaders gathered in a Taliban stronghold here recently to discuss mounting security challenges, U.S. military commanders and staff listened attentively, but there were no representatives from Afghan security forces. "What government do we have?" asked Mohammed Nabi, a malik, or tribal leader, from the Kandahar region who acknowledged he was a Taliban sympathizer. "The only faces I see here are men from another country wearing uniforms like the Russians. We are left to fend for ourselves, protect ourselves, and there is no one here from Kabul who cares." (READ MORE)

A wounded West Point graduate returns on a big night - In 2007, Dan Berschinski graduated from West Point. He headed off to Fort Lewis, Wa. , where, in July of this year, he led an infantry platoon to Afghanistan. On Tuesday night, 1st Lt. Berschinski, returned to West Point, now a double amputee with a keen sense of the perils of this war, and a strong desire to hear his commander in chief give a long awaited policy speech that outlines the way forward. (READ MORE)

Obama on Afghanistan: 'Our security is at stake'- Declaring "our security is at stake," President Barack Obama ordered an additional 30,000 U.S. troops into the long war in Afghanistan Tuesday night, nearly tripling the force he inherited as commander in chief. He promised an impatient public he would begin bringing units home in 18 months. The buildup to about 100,000 troops will begin almost immediately -- the first Marines will be in place by Christmas -- and will cost $30 billion for the first year alone. (READ MORE)

Endgame or escalation? Or both? - With echoes of George W. Bush's post-Sept. 11, 2001 call to arms, President Barack Obama worked diligently Tuesday night to make his wartime address sound like an endgame rather than what it was — a striking escalation of the U.S. presence in Afghanistan. Even as U.S. voters grow impatient with the eight years of war and Democrats fret about their prospects in next year's elections, Obama made the hard decision to increase the U.S. force in Afghanistan to 100,000 — nearly three times as many as when he took office. (READ MORE)

Bomb kills anti-Taliban lawmaker in Pakistan - Pakistan's Supreme Court said Tuesday it will soon begin examining an expired amnesty covering the president and key allies. The decision launches a process that could unseat the U.S.-allied leader just as the Obama administration needs stability in Islamabad to help crack down on the Taliban. Highlighting the dangers, a suicide bomber killed an anti-Taliban lawmaker in the Swat Valley — the latest in a series of bombings as the army presses offensives in militant strongholds close to the Afghan border. (READ MORE)

'Our security is at stake': Obama orders 30K more troops to Afghanistan - Declaring "our security is at stake," President Barack Obama ordered an additional 30,000 U.S. troops into the long war in Afghanistan Tuesday night, nearly tripling the force he inherited as commander in chief. He promised an impatient public he would begin bringing units home in 18 months. Utahns had mixed reactions to Obama's speech. (READ MORE)

Gates says first U.S. troops in Afghanistan in weeks - The first new U.S. troops should reach Afghanistan in two to three weeks, Defence Secretary Robert Gates said on Wednesday as a leading senator questioned President Barack Obama's plan for a speedy but limited surge to turn the tide against the Taliban. Gates, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Mike Mullen, chairman of the military Joint Chiefs of Staff, appeared before a Senate committee to build support for Obama's plan to send 30,000 more U.S. troops into the conflict -- but to start bringing them home after 18 months. (READ MORE)

Japan welcomes new U.S. Afghan policy, yet denies more aid - Japan welcomes a new U.S. strategy on Afghanistan announced by President Barack Obama, the top government spokesman said Wednesday, but added that it has no intention of increasing aid despite a growing view that Washington may demand Tokyo to do more. "The government welcomes" the new policy of sending an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan and starting to withdraw forces in July 2011, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirofumi Hirano said in a press conference held immediately after Obama's televised speech. (READ MORE)

Australia has no plans to add more Afghan troops - Australia`s defense minister has voiced his support for President Barack Obama`s decision to send more US troops to Afghanistan, but says Australia has no plans to do the same. Defense Minister John Faulkner said Wednesday that Obama`s commitment of 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan will be helpful in achieving success there. But Faulkner said Australia is not planning to add to its 1,500 troops already in Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

Obama urges Karzai's government to take more responsibility for security in Afghanistan - U.S. President Barack Obama, in a call with his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai on Monday night, urged Afghans to take more responsibility on their country's security, said the White House on Tuesday. "President Obama underscored the need for more rapid development of the Afghan National Security Forces so that Afghans themselves can assume greater responsibility over the security of their country," said a White House statement. (READ MORE)

IJC Operational Update, Dec. 2: International forces conducted an air strike against a Taliban commander in a remote area of eastern Afghanistan yesterday. The Taliban commander was the target of the precision strike in Kunar province's Dara Noor District, which occurred in an open area away from civilian compounds or infrastructure. Assessment of the strike continues. (READ MORE)

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